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IFJ calls for A1TV network to be allowed to continue broadcasting following political and judicial pressure

(IFJ/IFEX) - 31 January 2011 - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), today called for the A1TV television network in Macedonia to be allowed to continue broadcasting following political and judicial pressure that threatens the future of independent and critical journalism in the country.

Journalists working at A1TV, and the newspapers Vreme, Shpic and Koha e Re, have issued calls for help following action to freeze the accounts of their company and in the face of a court action that they claim is in violation of the country's Constitution.

Since 27 January A1TV has been airing its programmes from the street in front of the Government building, at sub-zero temperatures, in protest over the freezing of the bank accounts of media outlets owned by controversial businessman Velija Ramkovski who is in detention, accused of tax offences.

The station and the group's newspapers have long been targeted by the government for vigorous journalism exposing official corruption and for its pro-European Union editorial stance. Journalists claim the freezing of the accounts by the courts is direct pressure and an attempt to close down the group.

"There are reasons to be seriously worried by this action," said Aidan White, EFJ General Secretary. "When the target of the government and the courts are the most critical media in the country, it raises legitimate concerns about the real intentions of the Government in this case." The country's political opposition has also expressed its dissatisfaction with the state of media freedom in Macedonia. On Friday, nearly all of the country's opposition parties launched a parliament boycott, arguing that the move to shut down media outlets meant "death for a democracy".

The EFJ notes that the group have been under constant pressure of the Government for years and have been labelled as "traitors of the nation" and "spies" because of its fiercely independent editorial line and its investigation of corruption and governmental abuse.

"We ask the authorities to think again and to consider the threat to press freedom in this case," said White. "We note, too, that Macedonia's record on press freedom is poor and has been noted as such at the European Union level."

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